Wilmette native bikes cross-country for cancer groups
Wilmette native Sarah Hidder is part of Illini 4000 for Cancer, an annua cross-countryl bike ride with the aim to raise awareness for a cancer-related causes. |Photo courtesy Ann Meyer
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:59PM
Wilmette native Sarah Hidder is spending the summer following her graduation from the University of Illinois quite differently than most recent college grads.
Instead of kicking a job search into high gear, the 2008 New Trier High School graduate has dedicated her summer to riding her bike 4,580 miles on a summer-long trip that will take her and 27 other bicycle enthusiasts from New York City to San Francisco.
The Illini 4000 for Cancer is an annual bike ride event in which a group of U of I students and alumni ride their bikes in a group across the country in an effort to raise awareness for a cancer-related causes.
By accepting donations and meeting with cancer patients and survivors across the country along the way, the team supports two organizations—the American Cancer Society Research Fund and Camp Kesem, an Illinois-based organization that runs summer camps for children whose parents have been affected by cancer.
The young cyclists embarked on their journey on May 26 in Manhattan and they ride between 50-100 miles each day until they reach San Francisco on Aug. 7.
Hidder said the crew stays in churches that have offered them a place to stay for the night. They sleep in sleeping bags often on hard floors, and wake up at 5 a.m. every day.
After packing up their bags and putting them into the support vehicle that accompanies the team, they eat breakfast and head out each day at 7:30 a.m. Their daily rides wrap up in the late afternoon each day when they arrive at their lodging location for the night.
The support vehicle follows the riders wherever they go as an extra safety precaution. It carries water, a first-aid kit and a bike mechanic. The crew also mapped out a route that avoids interstates and major highways.
“We ride in smaller groups of three to six people at a time, and only travel on rural country roads that are good for biking,” Hidder said.
Besides doing it for a good cause, riding a bike for thousands of miles obviously is an excellent way to get in tip-top shape, and gives the team a unique opportunity to see most of the country over the summer.
Hidder and the team arrived in Chicago late last week where they were met by a big group of supporters at the “bean” statue in Millennium Park.
Once arriving in Chicago, the team had a few “rest days” to relax and spend time with their families. Hidder said she was happy to spend some time at her family’s home in Wilmette and relax.
So far the trip has taken them through Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, DC, Ohio, and Indianapolis, before they stopped in Champaign, Ill. and then up to Chicago last week.
On Sunday the crew had left the Chicago-area and had rode 65 miles up to Lake Geneva, Wisc. before embarking on the rest of their journey.
It takes an enormous amount of physical and mental endurance to complete the massive bike trip, and the team started prepping for the trip in November last year at U of I with training that included weight lifting, basketball, and regular gym workouts.
Those workouts continued until spring break when each person on the team brought their bikes to campus. Then the real work started.
The team began cracking down on their training with 20-30 miles of bike riding during the week. Then on weekends they started by doing a 30-mile ride the first week, a 45-mile ride the next week, and then 60, 75 and finally 90 miles the last weekend.
“On the days when we ride further, it does get tiring and you just want to lie down and drink water,” Hidder said. “Sometimes it sort of feels like you’re in a parallel universe.”
But no matter how strong the urge is to slow down, the riders offer each other support to keep on going.
“I miss my friends back home, but we’ve only been on the ride for three weeks and I already feel like these people are my family,” Hidder said. “Since we’re all from U of I we have a lot of the same interests and passions that bond us together.”
Come fall, Hidder—who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences—plans to find a career related to environmental sciences.
But until then, she plans to enjoy her summer riding on the open roadways raising money for a good cause and seeing America with her teammates.
To donate to Illini 4000 for Cancer or for more information, go to www.illini4000.org.